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Increasing Use of Benefits Programmes

Resource type: Grantee Story

In Northern Ireland, 40% of households rely on social security as their main source of income – and the number of people of pensionable age is projected to increase significantly from 266,000 in 2002 to 313,000 by 2017. However, as many as 35% of older adults who are eligible for one or more key benefits programmes are not claiming them.

Purpose and Impact of the Grant

Atlantic awarded a grant to two NGOs that are active in Northern Ireland – the Interactive Ageing Network (IAN) and the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) – to develop a collaborative initiative that will ultimately increase the number of eligible older people who claim the social benefits to which they are entitled. Through this initiative, the grantees hope to achieve a 3% increase in benefit enrollment during the first year of the initiative’s operation, while at the same time increasing collaboration among NGOs and the relevant government agencies.

The initial feasibility study for the programme is being undertaken by a group of four Northern Ireland NGOs – Age Concern Northern Ireland, Help the Aged, Advice Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Citizens Advice Bureaux. At the end of the feasibility phase, if a sustainable plan can be developed, the six organisations will collaborate on a national Benefit Take Up Initiative aimed at helping more older people enroll for social benefits – benefits with a potential value of up to £4 million over the life of the project.

Each participating NGO is assuming a role in the initiative that plays to its individual strengths. Help the Aged is in charge of outreach. Advice Northern Ireland is taking charge of training. The Northern Ireland Citizens Advice Bureaux is taking the lead on technology. Age Concern Northern Ireland is responsible for content and data management. The overall initiative is being co-ordinated, monitored and evaluated by IAN and NICVA.

The organisations hope to develop a co-ordinated programme integrating outreach, training and technology that not only increases benefit enrollment, but provides a model framework that can be used with other underserved populations.